Coffee – The greatest invention ever? Or, harmful to your health?

Coffee – The greatest invention ever? Or, harmful to your health?

Brandon Schulmeister, BComm, Pn1, NSCA-CPT

If you are anything like me, coffee is life. Without that sweet, sweet liquid, some days would seem impossible to start let alone conquer! Being around the gym I know that I am not the only one that loves themselves a good cup of coffee but is it actually any good for you?

You’ve heard it all:

Coffee dehydrates you
Too much coffee is bad for you
Drinking it later in the day can negatively affect your sleep
If you don’t have coffee people won’t want to be around

Okay… I may have made that last one up… or it is what I am told on a daily basis.

There are many misconceptions about the benefits of coffee and honestly, there is still more to be done to really uncovering the benefits and negatives of coffee.

One topic has been prevalent when talking about coffee and that is the distinction between individuals that have the ability to metabolize coffee quickly as opposed to others that can not. Now, this metabolizing effect has nothing to do with one’s ability to metabolize food but the enzyme within the liver that’s job is to break down the caffeine that is transported there.

Brian St. Pierre from Precision Nutrition writes,

“…‘slow’ metabolizers of caffeine don’t process caffeine effectively. These are people who are adversely affected by caffeine, get the jitters, and are wired for up to nine hours after consumption”. While “others just get a boost in energy and alertness for a couple of hours; they are considered ‘fast’ metabolizers of caffeine”.

Research has shown that approximately half of everyone carries the gene variant that makes use slow or fast at metabolizing caffeine. El-Sohemy, Ph.D., of the University of Toronto and the Canadian Research Chair in Nutrigenomics, has “demonstrated that caffeinated-coffee increases the risk of a heart attack among individuals who carry a version of a gene that makes them ‘slow’ caffeine metabolizers, but has no effect among individuals who are ‘fast’ caffeine metabolizers”

El-Sohemy goes on to say that “…moderate intakes of coffee (one to three cups per day) were associated with a lower risk of a heart attack among younger individuals who were also ‘fast’ metabolizers.”

Regardless of being a ‘fast’ or ‘slow’ metabolizer of caffeine I have always practiced moderation. Even something great for you in large quantities can start yielding negative “side effects”. Some negative signs of coffee intake include but are not limited to, abnormal sleep patterns, increased blood pressure, and heart attacks.

How will you know if coffee will have a negative effect on you?

Simple and not so simple. Without knowing precisely if you contain the enzyme with the genetic makeup to be a slow metabolizer it would be advisable to notself-diagnose yourself. In scenarios where you are experiencing many negative side effects to caffeine consumption, you should seek out your physician’s advice. Companies like 23andMe use saliva testing to process your DNA and give you some great information in regards to this and many other items.

Do you have experience any negative effects about coffee? I’d love to hear about it by leaving a comment below! Or, if not, tell me what your favorite coffee is 🙂



St.Pierre, Brian. All about coffee: Is it good for us? Or a disease waiting to happen?
El-Sohemy, Ahmed. The Science of Nutrigenomics
23andMe Canada